Academics: Frydenberg turns Australia into “guest worker state”

Stephen Clibborn and Chris F. Wright from the University of Sydney have attacked Josh Frydenberg’s decision to uncap international students’ work hours across hospitality and tourism, claiming that it will create a “guest worker state” that will push wages and working conditions lower:

Our research shows it [the decision] is consistent with a troubling 25-year trend.

This policy does nothing to address the glaring inadequacies of the current employment enforcement regime for temporary migrants, which are particularly stark in parts of hospitality. It effectively offers international students up as sacrificial lambs to these employers renowned for exploitation…

With this change, the government is supporting the hospitality and tourism industries by allowing restaurants, cafes and hotels to rely more heavily on international students in their secondary capacity as workers…

The new policy contradicts the 2019 Migrant Workers’ Taskforce recommendation, accepted in principle by the government, to maintain the 40-hour work restriction…

Department of Home Affairs emphasised the importance of not jeopardising international students’ primary purpose – to study – citing evidence that students working more than 40 hours per fortnight were more likely to fail coursework…

So why introduce a policy that contradicts the Department of Home Affairs and Migrant Workers’ Taskforce, and endangers international students’ primary role as students? Because the policy is consistent with Australia’s 25-year march towards becoming a guest-worker state. With this policy, we might just have reached that destination…

The government views temporary migrants primarily as disposable suppliers of low-wage labour to Australian businesses…

There is serious risk of deepening a low-wage, low-skill, poor job quality equilibrium in hospitality and tourism. These are not the types of jobs that will drive up wages, encourage skill investment and career development, and aid other stated intentions of the government’s post-COVID economic recovery plans.

Hilariously, in 2018 I debated one of the authors – Chris Wright – on the Today Show about immigration’s impact on wages (video below). I argued that Australia’s mass immigration policy was pushing down wages – a point vehemently opposed by Wright.

Ever since that debate, Chris Wright has penned numerous arguments decrying the low wages and exploitation across migrant-heavy industries (e.g. here, here, and here).

This report from December 2020 was particularly damning of Australia’s visa system:

Almost nine in 10 job ads written in foreign languages and targeting migrant workers are offering below the award rate, according to unions and researchers…

“This is a scandal,” [Chris Wright said].

“Previous research done on this issue indicates a very high proportion of workers on temporary visas in Australia are being paid below the minimum wage and by ‘very high proportion’, I mean the majority.”

Clearly, Chris Wright suffers from an acute case of cognitive dissonance. Australia’s mass immigration program has unambiguously undercut wages.

Unconventional Economist


  1. BabundaMEMBER

    Yep. Wright and Clibborn are first and foremost crusaders for migrant’s work rights. I’m not against that but to focus on the migrants without considering their impact on the local workforce makes them one of the worst examples of woke scholarship

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      “without considering their impact on the local workforce makes them one of the worst examples of woke scholarship”

      Yep,…the relentless Virtue signalling is bad enough from these “Academics” but their outright lies and obfuscation on this issue make them straight up enemies of Australian democracy and the working class.

  2. darklydrawlMEMBER

    “that will push wages and working conditions lower”…
    That’s a feature, not a bug!

  3. Ronin8317MEMBER

    The move will increase, rather than suppress wages. If the ‘student’ is able to work legally, they will be way less inclined to accept a cash payment at $10 an hour.

  4. They could have opened their opinion piece with “Foreign students aren’t an Export otherwise why do they need to work 40 hours pw & be exploited by nasty employers & become guest workers?”

  5. adelaide_economistMEMBER

    If only they actually were “guest workers”, which implies (and used to mean, as it does in many other countries) that they are here only to work and remit finances – and not to become citizens then bring the whole extended family over.

  6. ‘Guestworkers’ (article)

    ‘Migrant guestworkers’

    ‘Third world unskilled adult migrant guestworkers who are trafficked in by foreign criminal syndicates, in debt, and on pretext visa alibis to live & work illegally’

    700,000+ foreign students & partners on a splendid array of pretext visas & nonsensical ‘education’,

    Visas provided by an education industry that openly prostitutes itself as a migrant guestworker visa alibi.
    And continues to peddle the lie it is an ‘Export Industry’

    It is not an ‘Export Industry’
    $14 billion as a best case in fees & services paid for.
    Paid from money that was earned here.

    Almost all foreign students & partners are third world unskilled, entering Australia in debt to an foreign agent procurer, only the first semester paid and even that is borrowed.
    All the rest of their fees & services plus cost of living is from money earned here.
    In fact a very large proportion of their money earned here is then sent out of Australia in agent procurer debt repayments and remittances.
    Explosive growth to now some $8 billion.

    The real social & economic impact of the foreign student & partner third world migrant guestworker trafficking industry to Australia is at least ( -$35 billion )

    On in simpler terms – every foreign student or partner onshore on average is a negative social & economic impact to Australia of some $51,000 each.

    Don’t believe it, not convinced?
    Well, let’s add it up then.

    Money in from offshore as borrowed funds (for the back statement – whisked in & then out of the account to be used for the next one to be trafficked in) and supporting funds from offshore is best $2.4 billion (in fact thats the DHA / ABF estimate of all migrant TR – not just foreign students & partner subset). Supported by the world back foreign exchange statistics also.
    So +$2 billion for the foreign students & partners as total offshore funds coming in (foreign agent procurer money advanced for first semester & other costs) would be more than generous.

    Fees & services as said were $14 billion so the rest of the source of funds for those fees paid was earned here Eg: $12 billion of the $14 billion in fees was EARNED ONSHORE. As were all their other living costs. And the source of funds for repayment of their agent procurer debt and also to send back remittances.

    Here are some direct & indirect correlations of the 700,000 foreign students & partners cost & social impact to Australians.

    🔻$11 billion in Australian job theft.
    At least 500,000 Australian youth, mature aged unskilled & part time jobs stolen, costing some (-$11 billion) in Centrelink.

    🔻A wider impact in both wages loss or deliberate exclusion of work opportunity for Australians in highly selective, racially & ethnic aligned exclusion of Australians by the Chinese, Indian, South East Asian ‘employers’ or ‘labour ring organizers’ (-$8 billion ).

    🔻Then add on housing contention and again similar racially or ethnically aligned exclusion of Australians in housing (because they won’t live in foreign owned m8 to 2 Bed unit bought with dirty money washed into our residential housing in cash in hand bunk slum share) leaving 116,000 Australian evicted & on the streets as permanent homeless, and another 340,000 seeking affordable housing (-$3 billion).

    🔻A degraded education system, now priced out of reach of many Australian youth as an entitlement (-$5 billion plus).

    🔻Then add on congestion & overload of public and community infrastructure (-$5 billion or more)

    🔻And as over 70% of the foreign students & partners work illegally in cash in hand / ABN / labour rings – widespread taxation theft (-$6 billion)

    There are many other economic and social impacts.
    But let’s just add up these simple & clear ones.

    That is ( -$38 billion) less the +$2 billion that did come in from offshore, so its ( -$36 billion ) negative.

    Each of the 700,000 foreign student and partners in Australia creates on average an economic and social impact of $51,000 each.

    Not an export.
    They are a massive economic and social burden to Australia & Australians.

  7. This will have little practical impact on wages as the vast majority of international students are already working well beyond the 20 hour per week limit in any case.

  8. And yet nowhere to be seen is the one kind of guest worker whose presence in the economy could actually benefit Australian citizens (not rent-seeking political donors) the most – namely live-in nannies / housekeepers from SE Asia. What a boon that would be for over-stretched and stressed dual income households with kids in tow. But no interest from our political masters in policies that might actually benefit the masses.